top of page
  • Daniela Fernández aka Strawberry Shortcake

Halloween, Thanksgiving focus on… eating

Disordered eating keeps people from preserving a healthy weight or from having a balanced relationship with food. While often assumed to be just a phase, eating disorders are deadly if not addressed.

Eating disorders are not a choice. They aren’t only dieting, restriction, and binging, but mental and physical medical conditions.

Eating disorders are affecting the psychological, physical, and social functions of the body and mind. Eating disorders are “behavioral conditions characterized by severe and persistent disturbance in eating behaviors and associated distressing thoughts and emotions.”(American Psychiatric Association) Eating disorder diagnoses include bulimia nervosa, anorexia nervosa, binge eating disorder, pica, avoidant restrictive food intake disorder, rumination disorder, and more. Around 5% of the population is affected by eating disorders which often develops in young adulthood.

Several eating disorders, particularly anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa are more expected in women, but they can all transpire at any age and concern any gender. These demeanors can evolve in ways that emerge comparable to addiction. Eating disorders frequently co-occur with various other psychiatric disorders such as obsessive-compulsive disorders, mood and anxiety disorders, and substance abuse problems. Evidence indicates that genes and heritability participate in increasing the risk for an eating disorder, but these illnesses can also plague those with no blood history of the condition. Treatment should address behavioral, psychological, nutritional, and other medical complications. The consequences of malnutrition are horrifying, speaking from experience, or even of “purging behaviors including, heart and gastrointestinal problems as well as other potentially fatal conditions.”(American Psychiatric Association)

Diet culture is that collective set of social expectations "telling us that there's one way to be and one way to look and one way to eat and that we are a better person, we're a more worthy person if our bodies are a certain way," says UK-based body image researcher Nadia Craddock. Diet culture infiltrates everyone's life regardless of their belief in it. Diet culture is “the self-deprecating, harmful assumption that appearance and body shape are more necessary than psychological, physical, and general well-being.” It’s the idea that controlling every aspect of your body is the way to live. Controlling how much you eat and which foods, stressing the idea of “good” vs. “bad” and black-and-white thinking. Calorie counting, food tagging, and prioritizing thinness are all symptoms of a negative relationship with food and a voice of diet culture.

Halloween, Thanksgiving focus on… eating

Halloween and the Thanksgiving and year-end holidays are when diet culture is at its peak. The media is filled with tips on how to restrict candy and stay in shape, by not enjoying our holidays. It’s time to enjoy our parties, and enjoy our bodies.

People who battle restriction-induced eating disorders such as anorexia believe in foods as “good” or “bad”, considered black-and-white thinking. Those “good” foods are foods that are “safe” to eat within the mental restrictions made due to an eating disorder and the influence diet culture has. Candy, on Halloween especially, is considered a “bad” or “unsafe” food. In eating disorder recovery, we learn that all foods can have a place in our lives, and balance is critical. Candy and any foods on that “bad” list are not toxicants. In reality, all food is good food.

Navigating Binge eating disorder (BED) on Halloween can also be challenging. When celebrating it's common to buy excessive amounts of candy for trick-or-treaters. It can be triggering to have so much candy in their home.

Many people spend their time preparing their costumes, makeup, and houses, while those who struggle with eating disorders and recovery are anticipating triggers. Triggers for people with eating disorders include comments about weight or food-related numbers, distorted mirrors or mirrors in general, and much more. Clothing shopping can be “triggering for individuals who are in an eating disorder recovery, especially costume shopping. Costumes tend to be on the skimpier side and our society tends to praise women who show more skin and wear less clothing on Halloween.”

Diet culture is ever present this time of year. The media is littered with tips for adhering to your diet rather than satisfying a craving to have Halloween candy and party this month. Let’s not fall down the diet culture hole these holidays. Setting restrictions or avoiding all chocolate and candy is just presenting these foods with more significant power. This is an example of the “pendulum effect,” the more you restrict a food, the more you want it.

What we can do:

  • Practicing mindful eating starts with allowing yourself to use all of your senses in choosing to eat foods that satisfy and nourish your body and mind. You obtain the opportunity to acknowledge your genuine responses to food, such as your true likes and dislikes, without any judgment. I attempt to eat with awareness of my senses at all times and not multitask.

  • Practicing self-compassion involves “acting the same way towards yourself when you are having a difficult time, fail, or notice something you don’t like about yourself. Instead of just ignoring your pain with a “stiff upper lip” mentality, you stop to tell yourself “this is really difficult right now,” how can I comfort and care for myself in this moment?” (Eating Disorder Coalition)

  • For decades now, medical professionals have used the body mass index as a go-to criterion for health, and you've likely heard many times that a high BMI can lead to disease and death. Doctors use BMI, to study the health, happiness, and normalness of a person. Many still struggle to write off the BMI because of how often it's invoked to prove that fatness leads to illness. Experts say you have the right to say no to getting weighed at the doctor's office. If your doctor gives you a weight-based recommendation, don't be afraid to advocate yourself or ask what advice they might have for someone with a different BMI.

  • Confronting fear foods and practicing the opposite action requires a bit of a shift of mindset. Opposite action is acting on the opposite feelings that you are undergoing. For instance, if I am feeling anxiety about wearing revealing costumes, due to my fear of exposing my stomach, the contrasting measure of feeding into the anxiety would be wearing the outfit. Opposite action does not permanently resolve difficulties, nonetheless, I utilize it in order to challenge my eating disorder mentality. Fear foods are particular foods that people are afraid to eat due to their disordered beliefs. Facing our fears will not be comfortable, therefore, often attempt to face these hardships where we feel most safe being vulnerable, with ourselves or friends and family.


bottom of page